Two years later, BPD officers Moak and White remembered

Published 9:35 am Tuesday, September 29, 2020

This week marks the two-year anniversary of the deaths of Brookhaven Police Department officers Cpl. Zach Moak, 31, and patrolman James White, 35.

These men are still firmly in the memories of their families, friends, fellow law enforcement officers and residents of the Brookhaven area — even in the minds and hearts of people across the nation.

Moak and White were shot and killed in the early morning hours of Sept. 29, 2018, while responding to a call of “shots fired” in the neighborhood of North Sixth Street.

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“We answer those calls many times and nothing ever happens,” BPD Chief Kenneth Collins said at the time. “Just that one time is all it takes.”

“This is a tragic day,” Mississippi Department of Public Safety spokesman Warren Strain said at the time. “Law enforcement lay their lives out on the line every day so we don’t have to.”

“These are two awesome people who lost their lives in the line of duty, and they’re both heroes,” Collins said. “They’re in the presence of Jesus right now.”

The suspect

Police arrested suspect Marquis Aaron Flowers, then 25, who was wounded in the exchange of gunfire. Flowers was charged with two counts of capital murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, all charges enhanced as a habitual offender. Flowers was on parole and a fugitive when the shootings took place.

He pleaded not guilty Nov. 12 to all counts. District Attorney Dee Bates has said he will pursue the death penalty once the case goes to trial.

Flowers is scheduled to be back in Lincoln County Circuit Court before Judge Michael Taylor on Oct. 27 for any motions from his attorneys or the District Attorney’s office.

A tentative trial date was previously set for July of this year, but was postponed due to COVID-19 restrictions. A new trial date has not yet been set.

Honored, remembered

Moak and White have been honored in several ways at various events in the past two years, including medals presented to their families by The Sons of the American Revolution, wooden plaques presented by officers of the Cannonball Memorial Run, and a memorial bench placed in front of the BPD station on Hwy. 51.

Pres. Donald Trump also honored the officers during the 38th annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service in Washington, D.C., in May 2019.

“Today we renew our solemn oath that we will never forget,” Trump said. “These brave heroes did not put on the uniform for praise or for glory. They wore the badge because it was their duty, their calling, their noble purpose to serve, protect like nobody has ever done it before. They embodied our highest ideals and greatest aspirations. They were the very best of us. There was nobody close.”

The president began his remarks that day with stories about the two Brookhaven officers.

“James asked his mom to sign a waiver so he could enlist in the Army National Guard at the age of only 17,” he said. “Nearly 18 years in the military, James became something that he always wanted to be — a police officer.

“His teammate, Zach, spent time caring for his nieces and nephews and family. On days when he worked the night shift, he would tell them, ‘While you are sleeping, I will always be watching over you.’”

Recently a bill to rename the post office in downtown Brookhaven passed the U.S. House of Representatives. Spearheaded by Rep. Michael Guest, the bill would rename the building as the “Deputy William Durr, Corporal Zach Moak and Patrolman James White Memorial Post Office Building.”

Durr was killed in the line of duty on May 28, 2017, while responding to a domestic disturbance. Cory Godbolt was convicted in February for the murder of Durr and seven other victims — Brenda May, Toccara May, Barbara Mitchell, Jordan Blackwell, Austin Edwards, Ferral Burage and Sheila Burage.

The renaming legislation was announced in April 2019 on the steps of the courthouse on West Cherokee Street, followed by Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Brookhaven announcing companion legislation for the Senate.

“These three men lost their lives in the line of duty and, with the passage of this legislation, we will ensure that their sacrifice is not forgotten,” Guest said in a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives.